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By Your Leave -- a review of shadowland,
This review is from: shadowland (Paperback)What does romance mean? Love, pain, desire, trust, power, sex, lust, want, healing, need, angst, control, agony, loss, passion, joy....no definition, no list of factors, could ever contain all that the word represents.
And here's another question that has no easy answer: is physical dominance the same as power?
Over the past few years, the name Radclyffe has become synonymous with the best of contemporary lesbian romance fiction. And each of her books-from her first published novel, "Safe Harbor," through her recent forays into police procedural and intrigue/adventure in the "Justice" and "Honor" series-explores the many facets of romance, the many factors that contribute to relationships. Each of Radclyffe's stories is a love story, but each is the story of a unique relationship: in fiction as in real life, each relationship is built on different combinations of elements, and so each love story plays out in a different way.
In shadowland, Radclyffe has gifted us with yet another love story. It is the story of two women, Kyle and Dane, who must overcome past injuries and lingering pain and insecurity before each is able to allow the other to love her-to allow herself to love and be loved, to heal and be healed. But it is a love story with a difference. Whereas most romance novels are woven through the fabric of our days- where we work, how we live-shadowland is set against the nighttime world of the leather scene, where women explore sex and power and play in all their many guises. It is a world in which everything familiar is questioned and where pleasure-physical and emotional-is sought through every means possible; it is a world in which all emotion-anguish, joy, love, fear-is given physical manifestation. Kyle and Dane and the other women who populate this story explore the edges of the physical so as to learn the depths of their emotional stores. And when they love, they love fully, body and soul.
Each of Radclyffe's novels has redefined the lesbian romance genre through the excellence of her storytelling and the synapse-frying eroticism of her sex scenes. So on a very basic level, shadowland is of a piece with the rest of Radclyffe's stories. But not only is this story set in the world of S/M, but power-how it is used, how it is given, how it is imposed-is the theme that is explored in myriad ways through the various relationships in the story. Many, indeed all, of the lovers in Radclyffe's stories negotiate power in their relationships. But in shadowland, this negotiation becomes explicit. Every relationship in this story, whether between friends or longtime lovers or one-time sex partners or a Rottweiler and his trainer or a dominatrix and her slave, is framed so as to emphasize the gap between how power seems to be distributed and how things really are.
If the nexus of power and sexuality holds no allure, shadowland is probably not the story for you; choose another one of Radclyffe's stories to read or reread. But if you are in the mood for a romantic, erotic love story that explores and celebrates women in all of our weak, strong, sensual physicality, discover this very special Radclyffe novel. Come take a ride on the edge. Come to shadowland.